Not all that long ago, September brought with it a year's worth of small-screen novelty. Broadcast networks would refresh their lineups, the vast majority of which would run out their various shows' 22-episode orders, and then the reruns would begin. Other than a few midseason replacements come January, that was it; that's how TV worked. Change came in small ways, of course—HBO shrugged off the mantle of traditional months, more cable networks sought to emulate its success, and show orders became smaller—but September was still the coming-out party for a new TV season.
Not anymore. You know the drill: streaming; algorithms, and creator-focused programming turned TV, like tentpole movies, into a year-round prospect. We're just as likely to look forward to a new show in April (Dear White People in 2017) as in July (Stranger Things in 2016) as in November (Homecoming this year). There's still a little extra anticipation in fall, though—especially this fall, when new series (and anthology seasons) from the medium's best are abundant. We did what we could to narrow things down, but as with any new season, there's often a gap between premise and promise, so prepare for some trial and error. See you at the watercooler.
Carlton Cuse has been one of TV's steadiest and most prolific genre showrunners—Lost, Bates Motel, The Strain, and Colony, with a Locke & Key adaptation still to come next year—so you figure the tap's gotta run dry at some point. (Not, uh, counting the end of Lost.) Thankfully, that's not the case with Amazon Prime's splashy, smashy new take on Tom Clancy's uberspy. This time, Ryan (John Krasinski) is a CIA analyst finds himself in the field, racing to take down a man he suspects could be the next Bin Laden. The rare fall show to hit before Labor Day means you may have already devoured it; if not, and if you like your tech-espionage to have better-written villains than good guys, consider it your September homework. —Peter Rubin
Nuanced it ain't, but over the past five years the horror film franchise has proved to be a reliable source of broad social satire alongside its vicarious viscerality. With studio Blumhouse is turning it into a 10-episode "limited series," the time has come to see if audiences are ready to binge on The Purge. Set in the same near-future class divide that's given rise to an annual orgy of lawlessness, the show looks to follow three primary storylines during a single Purge Night: a couple at a political fundraiser, a corporate worker, and a Marine trying to rescue his sister from a doomsday cult. USA has newly entered the prestige conversation with shows like The Sinner; now, when horror is clawing its way onto TV like never before, this may be its shot at a genre hit. —P.R.
Jim Carrey and Michel Gondry have teamed up once before, and the result, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, may be the director's best work to date. Now, they're again playing with themes of loss and love in this Showtime, with what looks to be a simlar dose of sad whimsy. Carrey plays Jeff Piccirillo (or, as young fans of his' TV puppet show know him, "Mr. Pickles"), and things aren't great for Jeff; he lost one of his twin sons a year earlier, and is trying to navigate fraught relationships with his ex-wife (Judy Greer) and both his colleaugue/sister (Catherine Keener) and his producer/father (Frank Langella), all while remaining an icon of gentle positivity to the world at large. Carrey's gone on his own voyage since Eternal Sunshine—after ex-girlfriend Cathriona White committed suicide in 2015, he seemed to break apart and put himself back together again—and it's hard not to find parallels. If comedy is the sum of tragedy and time, this project may put that equation to the test. —P.R.
The practice of giving standup comics eponymous sitcoms may be a couple of decades past its heyday, but at least Fox picked a promising performer to do it with. Lil Rel Howery, who stole most of his scenes in Get Out and at least split them with Tiffany Haddish in The Jerrod Carmichael Show, stars as…well, Rel, a Chicagoan coping with fatherhood and divorce in the wake of his wife and his barber having an affair. (Damn.) There are caveats here—it's lit like a soap opera, and that laugh track is shameful—but I defy you not to laugh at Howery's mini-rant about "loose boots." Hey, there are worse ways to bring the ’90s back than observational assonance. —P.R.
After seven seasons, Ryan Murphy has polished his horror anthology to a high sheen—and he seems to be ramping up the fan service like never before for this forthcoming "crossover" season. Apocalypse seems to be a blend of previous installments Murder House and Coven, with many loyal Murphyites appearing in at least one role (Evan Peters reportedly appears as two characters, and Sarah Paulson plays three, a feat she last pulled off in AHS: Hotel.) You may not want to make this your introduction to the AHS Experience, but for completists, this is set to be an every-witch-way kind of season. —P.R.
Last year's Peabody-winning American Vandal revitalized the mock-doc format with its patient, detail-obsessed account of a torrid high school crime: A mass-graffiti incident in which several teachers' cars were decorated with a giant penis. It was smart-stupid comedy at its smartest-stupidest, and season two—the show is anthology-style—looks to once again send up the true-crime genre with the show's trademark touch of crass. Returning are Vandal's young faux-documentary crew, who this time are trying to track down a mysterious Catholic-school troublemaker known as…The Turd Burglar. Here's hoping they find the straight poop during the season's eight-episode run. —Brian Raftery
The Dragon Prince will inevitably inspire comparisons to another icon in animated television—the show comes from Aaron Ehasz and Giancarlo Volpe, the former head writer and director of the Peabody-winning series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Ten years after that show's end, this animated fantasy series follows two princes and an elfin assassin on an adventure amidst warring kingdoms. Expect swordfights, sorcery, and magical animal companions galore. —Pia Ceres
With House of Cards heading into its final, Spacey-less season, creator Beau Willimon is heading somewhere too: Mars. Sean Penn stars as Tom Hagerty, an astronaut who's brought out of somewhat involuntary retirement to command the first crewed mission to the red planet. Of course, it's not that simple; the first attempt didn't go so well, and Hagerty is contending with both grief (his wife went missing and is presumed dead) and guilt (he's just beginning to repair his relationship with his twentysomething daughter). A strong supporting cast bolsters Penn's usual intensity, and subtle production design has fun with extrapolating today's tech evolution—autonomous cars, AI assistants, VR, and others—into tomorrow's unremarked-upon backdrop. It may lack the machinations and scene-chewing villainy of Cards, but based on the first few episodes, The First certainly appears to have the right stuff. —P.R.
Filmmaker Cary Joji Fukunaga–whose last foray into television resulted in the grand, pulpy first season of True Detective–directs every episode of this 10-episode limited series, based on a Norwegian show. Emma Stone and Jonah Hill play patients in a brain-bending pharmaceutical clinical trial, overseen by a mysterious doctor (Justin Theroux) who promises a new batch of pills will cure all of their ills. The rest of Maniac is being kept secret, but judging by the lush, geometrically elaborate science equipment glimpsed in its trailer, we suspect at least a third of the show was filmed in Ridley Scott's basement. Sally Field co-stars, marking her sci-fi debut (unless you count The Flying Nun). —B.R.
What can you say about a show that doesn't even have a teaser trailer? Despite a premiere that's a month away, the only thing we know about Hulu's upcoming horror anthology is its unorthodox scheduling: it'll release one "feature-length" episode on the first Friday of each month, with each episode relating to a holiday in that month, and will do it for a full year. That being said, Blumhouse Productions knows horror better than most studios, and with Dermot Mulroney showing up in the second episode, it's not not worth a shot—if for no other reason than to see if the Blum stays on the rose. —P.R.
The latest animated adventure in that galaxy far, far away takes place right before the events of The Force Awakens, as young wannabe-pilot Kazuda Xiono is sent on an undercover mission at the behest of Poe Dameron. Along the way, he'll encounter such characters as BB-8 and Captain Phasma, and get in the cockpit of some spiffy-looking new ships. This anime-inspired Disney Channel series is created by Dave Filoni, who worked on both Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The only question: Will you watch it with friends or family, or will you watch it …. solo? —B.R.
It's been more than three years since Mad Men drew its last scotch-scented, Lucky Strike-laden final breath. During that time, creator Matthew Weiner has apparently been busy recruiting every actor ever made for his new Amazon Prime show, which includes Diane Lane, John Slattery, Amanda Peet, Corey Stoll, Ron Livingston, Kathryn Hahn, Isabelle Huppert, and Christina Hendricks. They're all part of this eight-episode anthology series, which follows the descendants—some possibly legit, some definitely pretend—of a mysterious Russian clan. The Romanoffs will be Amazon's first series to roll out on a weekly basis, meaning it will give fans enough time between episodes for some overnight 'shipping. —B.R.
Shirley Jackson's phenomenally creepy 1959 novel—about a group of visitors to a spirit-ridden gothic mansion‚—has been adapted for the big screen several times, most recently in 1999's hambone The Haunting. This ten-episode adaptation radically reworks Jackson's book for the 21st century, following a group of siblings who return to their spooky home after the suicide of their younger sister. With a cast that includes Timothy Hutton, Carla Gugino, and Henry Thomas, Haunting is the latest horror entry from writer-director Mike Flanagan, whose creep-credits include last year's Netflix film Gerald's Game. Between this and the forthcoming film adaptation of her book We Have Always Lived in the Castle, we're just months away from a Jackson revival. —B.R.
From the creator of (and, technically, in the same comics universe as) Riverdale, this angsty coming-of-age story follows half-witch, half-mortal Sabrina Spellman as she tries to balance her magical education with normal teenagerhood. So, yes, it's a horror retelling of the setup of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, swapping the '90s camp and laugh track for the macabre—think The Exorcist or Rosemary's Baby. Details are still scant, but fans of the modern Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic have noticed its writer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, will also be writing the TV series, and have begun speculating wildly. One thing is for sure, though: Sabrina's snide feline familiar, Salem—always the best part of the Spellman gang—will be making a comeback. —Emma Grey Ellis
While it's not the first beloved podcast to get a TV adaptation—in fact, thanks to creepy anthology Lore, it's not even the first to do it on Amazon Prime—Homecoming is coming in with a pedigree like few others. Not only is it Sam Esmail's first series since Mr. Robot, but it's Julia Robert's first TV project since…well, ever. (For the trivia crowd: she's guested on like four things, including playing herself on the final episode of Murphy Brown.) Couple those with source material that enthralled everyone when it was an audio-only psychological thriller about a caseworker and a veteran returning from war, and a cast that includes Bobby Cannavale and Sissy Spacek, and it seems like a sure bet for Amazon. —P.R.